Doctors attack NHS market 'chaos'

DOCTORS' leaders yesterday blamed NHS underfunding and the 'chaotic workings' of the internal market for the wholesale cancellation of non-urgent surgery on patients from one London health district.

The British Medical Association described as 'farcical' the completion of contracts for patient services placed by the Camden and Islington authority with local hospitals just five months into the financial year. Its refusal to bail out the Middlesex and University College hospitals in north London means they will only receive emergency cases from the authority for the foreseeable future - perhaps until the start of the next contract round in April 1994.

Dr Sandy Macara, the BMA chairman, protested on BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'Doctors are waiting to treat patients and patients are waiting to be treated. If this match cannot be made then it does suggest not only that there is a defect in the system, but that there is inadequate funding. I suggest both in this case.' As the UCH/Middlesex complex prepared to shed up to 24 consultant posts to help claw back a pounds 13m deficit, Labour demanded an immediate moratorium on ward closures.

Dawn Primarolo, the party's health spokesman, said the capital's health services faced 'debt and disarray'.

Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, said: 'Only a small number of patients will be affected by these measures and all urgent and emergency work will continue to be seen as before.'